|Renewing the Conservative Narrative||The Fight Against Sprawl|
by Christopher Chantrill
February 11, 2007 at 12:00 am
IT WAS TWENTY years ago that we learned of A Nation at Risk. The problems in our education system were imperiling our national future, wrote the National Commission on Excellence in Education. But since then nothing much has happened. If anything, the education system is worse. Yet the US economy has kept its place as the most productive in the world.
Its the same with government welfare. Ten years ago the nation drastically reformed welfare, setting strict time limits for welfare recipients. Liberals fainted all over the place in Victorian hysterics, yet the welfare caseload dropped by 50 percent and the social fabric was demonstrably strengthened.
Then there is health care. We spend about 50 percent more on bio-medicine than our European friends, yet life expectancy in the United States is, if anything, lower.
What is going on?
Theodore Dalrymple provided the answer recently in City Journal for Winter 2007. In How Not To Do It. He wondered about the staggering incompetence and waste of the public service in Britain. Everywhere you looked you saw expensive failure. Yet nothing ever changed. How could such incompetence continue? What did it mean?
Surprisingly, the African nation of Tanzania provided the answer. Under the incompetent rule of Julius Nyerere, it became a country so poor that:
Nothing, not even the most basic commodity such as soap or salt, was available to the general population... But then the thought dawned on me, admittedly with embarrassing slowness, that a man who had been in power virtually unopposed for nearly a quarter of a century could not be called incompetent[.]
Dalrymples error was in supposing that competence meant actually improving the lives of the people. Not at all. A competent ruler is the one who manages to stay in power.
The simplest way to stay in power has always been to operate a top-down patronage system that distributes jobs and pensions in return for grateful votes. But the welfare state has an additional element. From the bottom up it supplies the failure and helplessness that creates the moral imperative for government expansion and the accretion of more power to the progressive class.
We could steal a page out of Noam Chomskys book and say that it is a system for manufacturing failure.
But there is an additional factor at work. It is the real stroke of genius. The major theater of operations for progressive governmenthealth, education, and welfareare not critical areas of national well-being. Gross, persistent, large-scale failure in these government programs will not bring down the nation.
We have had failure in education for at least a generation. What is the result? The US economy remains the most productive in the world. And the people most damaged by defective education, inner-city African Americans, continue to vote in overwhelming numbers for the welfare-state party.
We have had forty years of massive government intervention in welfare. It has utterly wasted the poor, breaking up their authentic culture and multiplying social pathology. But apart from the poor and the votes of an army of grateful social workers, nothing much has changed. The poor and the social workers continue to vote for the welfare-state party.
We spend about 15 percent of GDP on health care. It delivers millions of jobs to union nurses, nurses aides, and billions in research dollars to the universities. But the contribution of big-dollar bio-medicine to health and longevity is tenuous. As James C Riley. states in Rising Life Expectancy: A Global History,
[a] number of other countries, among them Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Cuba, reported life expectancies nearly as high as in the United States on modest investments.
But millions of people believe that a system of expensive bio-medicine controlled by the government is the very essence of a compassionate society. And every one of them votes for the welfare-state party.
It is all very well for Cal Thomas to grouse that Democrats never have enough of our money to spend on their favorite entitlement programs -- the ones that keep them in office. So Democrats get to buy votes with taxpayers money. Whats not to like?
But imagine an America in which every conservative and Republican no longer believed the Democratic mantra that a nation without government education was a Nation At Risk?
It would be an America that wasnt quite so frightened about what the Democrats would do if we broke one of their toys.
It was Keynes who argued that the power of special interests was greatly overrated. It was ideas that mattered. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.
Suppose people got the idea that you could flush the average failing government program down the toilet and nobody would notice? After all, theyd say, all government programs fail; thats how the system works. Its all about the patronage, stupid.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists
conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family.
Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
Paul Dirac: When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated
by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that
I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion.
However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and
inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he
suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.
John Farrell, The Creation Myth
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization